By Heidi Genrich
Transparency is fantastic because it demands that everyone be honest, even large traditional corporations that are used to making decisions behind closed doors. The JPMorgan Chase & Company learned this lesson the hard way when they allegedly fixed the results of their online contest. More than 500,000 charities competed for votes on Facebook, the top 100 most popular promised a $25,000 grant. Chase decide to disqualify several of the top 100 group at the last minute, supposedly over concerns about associating the Chase brand with their mission. Outrage ensued.
Marcia Stepanek provided a thoughtful evaluation of the issue on her blog:
Transparency matters (a lot) to today’s cause-wired consumers. But that’s not all. There’s another lesson here that bears repeating, and it is this: don’t invite Web-savvy crowds to participate in a “do-good” project without giving them control over the outcome – regardless of what the CEO thinks of it. Online fans and networks, it’s clear, cannot be shut down nor controlled once you energize them around open initiatives they care about.
What will this mean for the future of crowdsourcing online contests? Will this scare large brands away from open philanthropic campaigns? The lesson of The Chase Community Giving Contest is that brands – big or small – can’t simply use social media to unilaterally promote themselves. The audience, no longer content to simply observe, demands participation and accountability. For those organizations that are always seeking to improve both their work and society, the Chase brouhaha indicates that crowdsourcing has a promising future.